Uganda Human Rights Commission
Tuesday 13th January 2015
The Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) whose mandate is to protect and promote human rights is appalled by yesterday’s incident involving the use of excessive force by some police officers against some journalists, which was aired on various media last night. The journalists were reported to have been covering an incident involving a clash between police and a group of youth who were allegedly demonstrating.
The UHRC condemns the high handedness and unprofessional behavior of the police officers who appeared in the television images last night beating demonstrators and journalists indiscriminately and using excessive force. The Uganda Human Rights Commission demands that the police authority as a matter of urgency commences investigations that shall lead into disciplinary procedures against the errant officers.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission notes that such actions involving the use of excessive force are not only regrettable but a blatant violation of the rights of the victims. The images of some police officers whipping and injuring journalists, one of whom is reported to have been hospitalized in Mulago Hospital, is in total violation of Article 24 of the Constitution which guarantees the respect of human dignity and protection from inhuman treatment. The images we saw last night also violated Article 44 of the Constitution which totally prohibit the violation of the right of freedom against torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which is a non-derogable right.
Although one of the Regional Police Commanders for Kampala Mr. Ruhweeza swiftly intervened to take the injured journalist Andrew Lwanga of WBS to Mulago Hospital for medical attention and also promised that action will be taken on the errant police officers, the act of beating up journalists by police officers was again in total violation Article 221 of the Constitution which requires all security agencies to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in the performance of their functions.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission has on a number of occasions urged the Uganda Police Force to exercise restraint and to ensure that only reasonable and necessary force is applied. On our part, the UHRC has commenced investigations into this despicable incident which as earlier noted is a violation of the rights of the victims and our team has already taken statements form the victims and is in the process of carrying out further investigations with the concerned police officials.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission therefore calls for the following urgent actions:
Individual liability of the errant police officers who should be prosecuted under the new Prevention and Prohibition of Torture law of 2012, with a view of reprimanding them and as a deterrent measure.
The victims should be accorded compensation by the culprits for the injury and losses suffered.
The police should always exercise restraint, ensure the use of reasonable force and be mindful of the Constitutional requirement to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in the course of their work.
Members of the public wishing to demonstrate should always cooperate with the police which is the law enforcing agency, and also respect and observe the guidelines laid out in the Public Order Management law to avoid causing un necessary chaos and disorder.
In conclusion therefore, the Uganda Human Rights Commission once again condemns the actions of the errant police officers yesterday and calls for urgent investigation and disciplinary action against the culprits. On the other hand we appeal to the general public to be law abiding and to exercise their rights and freedoms within the framework of the laws that govern us as country.
For God and My Country
Dr. Katebalirwe Amooti Wa Irumba
Member of the Commission and Acting Chairperson